April 2010

The Peacemakers

The cause of peace is an ongoing struggle. Peace does not only mean the absence of war or conflict, but also means peace of mind and freedom from fear and poverty and the ills that keep human beings from reaching their true potential. Imagine a world where our words and deeds and money is spent helping not harming, uplifting not oppressing, bringing smiles not tears and hope not fear. This is the true nature of making peace. The people who dedicate their lives to these pursuits are the peacemakers, who for very little or no remuneration, quietly serve the cause of peace serving milk to children or teaching the ignorant or removing the rubble after a disaster. Such a person was Andrew Grene, a United Nations peace worker who lost his life in Haiti. Andrew dedicated his life to the belief that all human being have potential. In January, Andrew gave his life while working for this cause. Haiti was biggest single day loss of United Nations workers in the organizations history.

In February, a client called me and asked if I had received their request for a custom plaque. I did not receive it. Come to think of it, I had not received any forms for custom plaques. This prompted me to send some test forms and I discovered, to my horror, that the submission form on my website was not working! I called my web designer in a panic, who contacted Go Daddy and in about an hour they informed me all was righted. My email lit up like a Christmas tree with several dozen past requests! I frantically started contacting these potential customers, explaining the problem and saving the orders. One young lady had written me asking for a plaque that contained “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God”. She further explained that a dear friend of hers had lost his twin brother in the earthquake in Haiti. She further stated that his brother worked for the United Nations and she would like the U.N. logo on the plaque. That young man was Andrew Grene. I contacted her but alas I was too late. Too much time had passed and she had chosen another gift to help express her solidarity with her friend and his family. I was very moved by her story and I felt badly that a glitch in my system had caused a late response.

I was making a plaque of the Beatitudes and the words “Blessed are the peacemakers” kept reminding me of the lost plaque request.As I held the finished Beatitudes plaque, my eyes kept finding the words “Blessed are the peacemakers”. I decided to make the peacemakers plaque anyway. I decided that I would give it to this young woman. I further decided that the commission I might have received for this plaque, I would donate to the Andrew Grene Foundation.

This is “The Peacemakers” and it is dedicated to the United Nations workers who made the ultimate sacrifice in the cause in the peace in Haiti.

You can learn more about Andrew and make a donation to help continue Andrew’s work by visiting http://www.andrewgrene.org



Sophia’s Baptism

I accepted a commission from a client to do a plaque for her niece’s baptism. She desired the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. The entire chapter. I was a bit concerned about fitting so much text on one plaque but I did several designs and after a few attempts, we arrived at a simple design. She needed this piece before Easter so I set about straightaway on the engraving. As I began to work on the plaque I thought about Sophia and what an important day this was to be.There are a few days in our lives that we always remember, perhaps a birth, a marriage and baptism. It reminded me of my daughter’s baptism. It reminded me of my baptism, so many years ago.

Now the little church where I was baptized had a baptistry that was supposed to be heated but that never seemed to be working. It was cold. The place where we changed into our robes was in the basement of the church and the only access were these steep, slick concrete steps that were dangerous in good conditions. We knew that the baptism was not a true measure of faith but negotiating those steps while soaking wet and in bare feet could quickly become a “slip and slide”. Yet we believed that our faith would sustain us and it did.

I finished the engraving on the First Corinthians plaque and all was exactly as promised and matched the proof exactly. Somehow I was not quite happy with it. The piece of clear cherry seemed uninteresting and rather plain. It looked like plywood. Acceptable but not quite special. A day as profound as the beginning of one’s spiritual life deserves something special. Well the plaque is made and after all it is as promised. It should be alright.

I was making some tables and I secured some wide cherry boards. These were 13”-15” in width which is rather hard to find, cherry trees being rather small as trees go. I had carefully re-sawn these boards into thinner boards and had sticker and stacked them to dry. I was working on some finishing when I heard a crack and popping sound. At first I thought some critter may have moved into the wood pile, a chipmunk or mouse. I cautiously approached the wood pile when I saw it. A crack at the end of one of my nice wide boards. “Oh No”, I thought as I unstacked the wood and beheld the crack running from one corner diagonally across the end of the board making its full width useless. I felt a little down hearted and then I wondered. I thought about Sophia’s plaque. Could there be enough? I measured from the end of the crack, 8 3/4”. I measured the length, 13”. Just enough for a 8.5” x 12” plaque. I carefully cut out the section, milled it and lay the piece on the bench to plane. As the plane moved over the piece, fluffy shavings fleeing from the plane, the surface began to shine and reveal a rich heart wood color with a deep vein of dark red running through the grain and one corner a bit lighter, almost like morning sunshine striking it. There seemed a resurrection story in this little piece of wood. I decided to remake the First Corinthians plaque.

I could not help but watch as the laser moved over the piece and the words began to emerge, “Love is patient, Love is kind”, “Love perseveres”. I applied some oil to the wood and the grain sprang to life showing it’s full character. A beautiful piece.

I do not know this young woman. I don’t know if I ever will. I felt, however as though I had participated in this event although in a very small way. I was allowed to be part of welcoming a new sister. This is the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians. This is for Sophia on her baptism day.

Happy Easter